Bridging The Americas: The Literature of Paule Marshall, by Stelamaris Coser

By Stelamaris Coser

A strong argument for extending the limits of what's categorised as American literature

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Extra resources for Bridging The Americas: The Literature of Paule Marshall, Toni Morrison, and Gayl Jones

Example text

Many newborn nations constructed themselves as mixed or mestizo to affirm their antagonism to the white colonizer. The ideology of an America of mixed races was established as early as 1819, when Simon Bolívar, the celebrated "liberator" of Spanish America, affirmed the dream of social syncretism to distinguish the newborn nations from the Spanish rulers who had decimated the majority of the Indian population. "14 Page 7 By contrast, the anti-colonial pride and the nationalist ideologies of mestizaje do not preclude discrimination within Latin America against people of African descent.

Herself a New Yorker born to Barbadian parents, Paule Marshall's novels focus on the relationship between Africa and a larger America that embraces the Caribbean, the United States, and Brazil, characterized by a diversity of colors and cultures. When Toni Morrison explores the complexity of mixed heritage in the United States and the Caribbean in her epic narratives of the African diaspora, or when she writes as a storyteller who brings the community together and keeps myths alive, she is connecting not only with the tradition of black women writers pioneered by Zora Neale Hurston but also with the literature of such Latin Americans as Gabriel García Márquez, as she openly acknowledges.

It was a privilege to discuss my work with all of these people throughout the writing process. I am indebted to colleagues and friends who shared their thoughts with me and helped me with their insights, particularly Jun Xing, Roberta Hill Whiteman (Bobbie), and Arlene and Luiz Diaz. Providential computer assistance came from my friends Beth Gama and Wes Olson. These and other people inside and outside the academy provided me with a much-needed multicultural community in the United States. Constant support came from my "sister" Charlayne Myers and from my "American Mom and Dad" Charlotte and Wayne Owens, whose family I joined as a foreign exchange student in 1966, and I thank them all.

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